Aeschylus was a Greek tragedian who dedicated his life to the theater. He laid the basis and laid the foundation for art to grow throughout the globe. Sophocles and Euripides took over as his noteworthy successors while he acted as the starter. The works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides have survived to this day and can be read or performed. Aeschylus, known as the “Father of Tragedies,” was the true originator of Greek tragedy. His efforts were helpful in developing a basic understanding of prior tragedies. Until now, his plays have served as a point of reference. When Aeschylus began writing, the theatre was still in its infancy. Plays back then consisted solely of choral poetry accompanied by dramatic dancing. Aeschylus not only improved the genre but also introduced a new concept by incorporating a chorus as a second character in the play. He is reported to have authored around ninety plays throughout his lifetime, just seven of which have survived to this day. These seven plays, however, aid in the basic comprehension of earlier tragedies.
Childhood and Adolescence
There isn’t much known about Aeschylus’ life or the precise year he was born. However, he is thought to have been born in Eleusis, a tiny village northwest of Athens, about 525 BC.
He was fathered by Euphorion, a member of the Eupatridae, the ancient nobility of Attica, and was born into a wealthy and opulent household.
A Later Years
Young Aeschylus labored in the vineyard throughout his formative years. God Dionysus visited Aeschylus in his dream, according to 2nd-century AD geographer Pausanias, and directed him to concentrate his energy and attention on the embryonic art of tragedy. He awoke immediately, stirred by the dream, and began writing a tragedy.
Cleisthenes ascended to power in 510 BC after Cleomenes I banished Peisistratus’ sons from Athens. He instituted new changes, including a registration system that prioritized the deme over family custom.
The Persian war had a significant impact on his life and career. At the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, he and his brother Cynegeirus fought to defend Athens against Darius I.
The Athenians were victorious in the battle. Though there was jubilation all around, his brother Cynegeirus’ death while attempting to stop a Persian ship from fleeing from the coast brought him much agony and grief.
When he was summoned to battle against Xerxes I’s invading army at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC, he resumed his military responsibilities. In 479 BC, he participated in the Battle of Plataea as well.
He was a writer and the first to develop the tragedy genre, despite his military duty. He participated in the popular dramatic competitions of the day. The competition was more of a party than a competition.
The first competition in which he competed featured three playwrights, including himself, who each performed a tragic piece followed by a shorter comedy satyr play.
Following the first competition, a second competition with five comic playwrights was held. A panel of judges selected the winners of both competitions. Throughout his life, he took part in numerous such competitions.
He authored over ninety plays during his lifetime, but only seven have survived to this day. ‘The Persians,’ ‘Seven Against Thebes,’ ‘The Suppliants,’ the ‘Oresteia’ trilogy, which includes the three tragedies Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides, and ‘Prometheus Bound,’ are among them.
With the exception of ‘Prometheus Bound,’ whose authorship is still disputed, all of his plays are thought to have won first prize in the competition.
After the death of another Greek tragedian, Phrynichus, in 473 BC, Aeschylus became the yearly favorite in the Dionysia and went on to win every tournament.
His oldest extant drama is ‘The Persians,’ which was produced in 472 BC and received first prize at the Dionysia. It was based on his actual experiences at the Battle of Salamis.
‘Seven Against Thebes,’ his next surviving play, was staged in 467 BC. It was centered on God interfering with human affairs. The play originally told the story of King Oedipus’ two sons, Oedipus and Antigone, and their deaths as a result of their desire for the crown. It came to a close with a memorial service for the brothers who had died.
He wrote The Oresteia, a trilogy play that has remained the sole surviving trilogy of Greek plays by any author, around 458 BC. Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers (Choephoroi), and The Eumenides are three plays that together depict the horrific story of Agamemnon, King of Argos’ family.
‘Prometheus Bound,’ the final of his surviving dramas, is disputed as being written by him. Scholars have cast doubt on ancient authorities’ claims that it was his donation.
Personal History and Legacy
Euphorion and Euaeon, his two sons, were born to him after he married. Surprisingly, both of his sons went on to become tragic poets. Euphorion earned first place in a competition, beating out Sophocles and Euripides.
Aeschylus’ nephew, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, was a tragic poet who won first prize in a competition against Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
In 458 BC, he returned to Sicily for the last time. During his visit, he went sightseeing in Gela. During this time, he exhaled his final breath. If legends are to be believed, an eagle mistook his bald head for a rock and dropped a tortoise on it, killing him. In 456 BC, he passed away.
Following his death, a monument was built in his honor.
Estimated Net worth
The ‘Father of Tragedy’ is a common nickname for this Greek tragedian and dramatist.